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Charities Minister Poto Williams didn't read damning report into Hepatitis Foundation's extravagant spending

Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Poto Williams hasn't read a damning report into the Hepatitis Foundation's extravagant spending and wasn't aware her department was refusing interviews.

Poto Williams. Source: rnz.co.nz

By Jo Moir of rnz.co.nz

RNZ revealed last week the foundation spent more than $128,000 on travel over two years for its board chairperson and paid for lavish dinners at top restaurants.

Charities Services completed its two-year inquiry into the foundation last year, but never published its findings.

The foundation has called in a firm of accountants to review the regulator's findings, which it says contains inaccuracies the charity has long contested.

The foundation's board strongly rejects many of the claims in the report, including that the travel was unapproved, unreported or inappropriate.

The minister-in-charge, Ms Williams, couldn't explain why she hadn't read the report or when she first heard about it.

Ms Williams said the investigation was largely an operational matter and she was unaware the regulator had refused RNZ's interviews.

"I will have to take that back to Charities Services, so I wasn't aware they hadn't made any comment at all,'' she said.

The foundation receives millions of dollars from the Ministry of Health but won't say if taxpayers are funding the audit.

The ministry redirected RNZ's questions about what money was being used back to the foundation to answer.

Ms Williams was also unsure who is forking out for the audit.

"That's speculative so I'm not really going to comment on that. I'm going to wait and see what comes out of this before I make any comment on that,'' she said.

The regulator said it stood by its investigation into the foundation and its findings.